Thursday, May 04, 2006

Finding Discounts in Your Industry

Access to money-saving discounts and perks may be closer than you think.

Various industries, corporations and trade groups offer cost-cutting programs for qualified participants.

For example, veterans and teachers can earn big savings from two national programs. And there are outlets for other groups. Check out your employer's human resources office, industry trade groups or your favorite stores. A little research may uncover valuable discount programs.

Office Depot has a benefits program for teachers. Heather McGrath, a computer teacher at a local private school, provided me with a quick lesson about Office Depot's Star Teacher Program. The program gives teachers a 5 percent discount on most store products purchased for the classroom or for personal use. Additionally, teachers receive a 15 percent discount on copy and print services, according to an Office Depot representative. McGrath said that enrollment was easy and the savings were real.

And there are many other benefits. Educators in the Star Teacher Program also participate in Office Depot's ''Advantage Rewards program,'' providing quarterly rebates ranging from $20 to $50, depending on a consumer's accumulated purchases.

An Office Depot representative said the program also includes an annual ''Star Teacher Breakfast'' a complimentary breakfast gathering that includes a 10 percent discount on items purchased that day. For more information, check out:

Meanwhile, U.S. veterans can receive travel, shopping and prescription drug benefits through the Veterans Advantage Program ( or 866-838- 7392). This privately run program charges an annual enrollment of $60 and $29.90 per additional family member, but offers discounts at Continental Airlines, Amtrak, major car rental companies and other travel companies, according to founder Scott Higgins, a Vietnam veteran.

Other major corporate participants include Dell Computer, Apple Computer, Best Western Hotels, Greyhound, DHL and others. Program enrollees receive a magnetic card that is swiped for discounts at the counters of participating companies.

A prescription card plan offers discounts of up to 75 percent at more than 50,000 regional and national pharmacies, including Walgreens, Eckerd Drugs, Publix, Target, Rite Aid, Phar-Mor and Winn-Dixie.

The programs are typically cross-promoted in partnership agreements. For instance, Amtrak's website publishes details about the 15 percent discount offered to members of the Veterans Advantage Program.

But if you're not a teacher or related to a veteran, keep looking. In researching this topic, I was surprised at the various saving programs that are available. By networking with friends, co-workers and industry contacts, you may find untapped benefits.

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